Archive for the ‘Twitter’ Category

Why You Should Tweet During a Crisis

Ever have one of those frustrating conversations with your colleagues during an emerging issue, where you’re trying to figure out whether acknowledging an issue online will defuse it or spread it?

You know, the one that goes something like:

A: “Have you seen all the chatter about this issue online? We should get out there and let people know what’s going on.”
B: “No – it’s only a few people – if we post about it more people will know there’s a problem.”

People have a natural reluctance to admit something is wrong. That’s all the more so online, where people can talk back and potentially ask uncomfortable questions. So, unless there’s someone with enough authority to stick-handle a response through the objections, this is often where a stalemate is reached.

Even if you do manage to convince people of the need to communicate, the time it takes to do the convincing often means that you miss the boat on getting your response out there in time for people to see it.

That’s why I was really interested to see a note from Shashi Bellamkonda of Network Solutions on the Social CRM Pioneers group, pointing to some interesting research by Microsoft and Psychster on the effect of companies acknowledging issues via Twitter on the actions and perceptions of customers.

The white paper, entitled “Using Twitter to Reassure Users During a Site Outage,” looks into the effects of a company informing people – or not – of an outage via Twitter, and the varying effectiveness of different approaches to doing so.

The conclusions provide some useful ammunition for those who advocate for a more proactive approach to managing issues via Twitter:

  1. Any kind of acknowledgement online will result in lowered negativity and improved perceptions, and may lead to fewer people calling your call centre
  2. Companies need to think about who posts the information, not just what is posted – a trusted community manager may be better than an executive or an anonymous company account
  3. Companies can improve the effectiveness of their acknowledgements by explaining the nature and cause of the issue

It’s particularly interesting that the study identified that the acknowledgements do more than just change perceptions; they also decrease the likelihood of people calling your call centre.

Change in likelihood to contact support

During a panel on online support at SxSW this year, Frank Eliason explained that he was able to calculate the tangible benefit from his team at Comcast by looking at the cost of their team, the number of people they helped and comparing that to the cost of those people calling their call centre.

Even the most math-averse person can tell that if you reduce the number of people calling you for information, and do it in a cost-effective way, it should be an easy sell.

What’s more, this is a two-pronged benefit – communicating via Twitter can lower your support costs while simultaneously improving peoples’ perception of your company. So, you’re not only lowering costs, you’re also potentially generating revenue in the long-term.

Win-win.

25 Suggestions For How To Use Twitter

Twitter sent an email around to users yesterday, giving four suggestions for getting the most out of Twitter in 2011:

  1. Follow your interests: Follow the people who share your passions
  2. Get specific: Follow your favourite leagues, teams, players, writers etc
  3. Don’t panic: Search for hashtags and relevant accounts during emergencies to stay informed
  4. Return to Twitter: A call for lapsed users to return to  a service that apparently now has over 200 million user accounts

Four suggestions seems a little thin to me. I often get asked why people should use Twitter; here are 25 ideas for ways you can get value out of Twitter, with a mix of business and personal focus:

  1. Stay in touch – Find your friends and use Twitter to post and read micro-updates on what’s going on in your lives
  2. Meet new people – Get to know friends of your friends and widen your circle
  3. Network professionally – Follow and get to know other people working in your industry
  4. Find local events – Watch for interesting events that your connections are attending. Take advantage of the opportunity to take online connections offline
  5. Research destinations – Travelling somewhere? Search for what people are saying, and poll your network for pointers on your destination
  6. Get recommendations – Looking for a vendor, at home or at work? Ask your Twitter friends for recommendations on who to go with
  7. Grow professionally – Identify the leaders in your industry. Read what they post; follow who they follow; learn from their activity
  8. Fuel your passion – Find people who share the same interests as you, and geek it up! Let other peoples’ passion for your interests fuel your own
  9. Influence the influencers – Get to know the people with influence in your field, before you need to ask them for anything
  10. Stay on top of news – Follow news-related accounts, both traditional and non-traditional – to stay up-to-date with news in your area and your industry
  11. Get to know journalists – Whether you post or you just lurk, follow the journalists in your field, learn what they read and what they like, and get to know what will be helpful for them
  12. Research competitors – Follow your competitors. See what they post; see who they engage. Learn from their successes and their mistakes
  13. Gain insights – Solicit feedback from your connections on ideas, products and services
  14. Filter your reading –  Rather than fearing drinkin from the Twitter firehose, create a list of people who consistently post things that interest you and let them generate your reading list. Bonus: you’ll find stories from sites you don’t normally check
  15. Generate ideas – Whether it’s through case studies other people post, ideas sparked from conversations or reactions to your posts, let your connections help you to generate new ideas
  16. Organize meetups – Found yourself with some time on your hands? See who else is around. Planning to be somewhere at a certain time? See if anyone wants to meet up with you
  17. Boost your reputation – Post your own content or curate others’ to build your own reputation in your chosen area
  18. Inbound job hunting - Network with peers in your industry, build relationships with hiring managers, develop your own reputation and watch the number of job offers you receive rocket
  19. Outbound job hunting – Follow executives at the companies you want to work for and keep your eyes open for job openings
  20. Stay on top of trends – Identify the thought leaders in your industry and stay on top of trends by listening to what they’re saying
  21. Drive conversions – As a business user, point people towards your points of conversion… but don’t do it too often, and make sure it’s something people will find valuable
  22. Engage with your community – Don’t focus all of your company’s posts on pushing content; try to make a majority of your posts more conversational
  23. Solve problems – Monitor for problems with your company’s customers, and solve them
  24. Re-purpose content – Have something interesting on one of your other online properties? Let people know where to find it
  25. New business generation – Get to know people at companies you want to work with; watch for requests for help from people looking for your services; post/curate content that generates inbound demand

I’m sure you can think of a tonne more. Let me know what you’d add in the comments below!

The World Won’t End Without Your Tweets

Social media can be a compulsive beast. It’s easy to feel a ‘need’ to keep putting out content through your various channels; no-where is this more true right now than on Twitter. I’ve written about that topic before, and I’ve also discovered the importance of unplugging occasionally.

So, what to do when a client feels like they can’t let their account lie dormant, even for a few days?

Todd Defren wrote a thought-provoking  post earlier this week, asking if people thought his company had done the right thing when a client asked them to take over his Twitter account and “tweet” on his behalf. Their reaction:

“Yes, we would tweet from his account, but with the following conditions:

— Prior to the event, he must tweet, “During the show some of my tweeting will be supplemented by our extended team.” We felt that the term “extended team” was appropriate, suggesting that that term covered both internal and 3rd party colleagues.

— A reminder to that effect would go out, regularly, throughout the conference, i.e., every 10th tweet would remind followers that someone besides the executive might be “at the controls” of his Twitter account.

—When character spaces permitted, we’d add a #team hashtag to denote that the tweet was not published by the exec — but honestly, this attribution fell away more often than not; we largely relied on the “every 10th tweet” approach to cover our ethical backsides.”

Todd asked us, “how would you have handled such a request?” My initial response, posted as a comment on Todd’s post, was that I might have considered disclosing more fully but that in general they seemed to have approached it the right way.

Then, once again, I had a conversation with a colleague that made me think differently.

In one of our social media team meetings, Kerri Birtch suggested that we should really be thinking about a different question: did the client really have to appear to be online all the time?

Why did they feel the need to be online – was it for ego-based reasons or a genuine business need? Could the CEO have simply tweeted that they’d be at a conference and would be paying less attention over the next few days? Could they have posted a heads-up on a company blog for people who missed their Twitter announcement? Why did they not feel it was ok to be less active for a few days?

I don’t know the answers to those questions as I don’t have the context, but Kerri’s thoughts really highlighted a question we all need to ask of ourselves and of clients more often:

Why?

SocialScope Incorporates Foursquare, Twitter Lists

SocialScope, the BlackBerry app billing itself as “a mobile inbox for your social networks,” has released a new version (v0.9.5.81-0) of its beta application.

The primary changes in the new version:

If you aren’t aware, Foursquare is a location-based social network combining geographic context with gaming elements. I’m fascinated with it thanks to its myriad marketing opportunities, but unfortunately there’s no way to use it on a BlackBerry right now aside from a less-than-satisfying mobile site (there’s an app in closed beta testing right now, but I haven’t received an invite yet).

The new SocialScope app almost negates the need for a stand-alone Foursquare app entirely. Using the Foursquare API, the app accesses your BlackBerry’s GPS functionality to determine your location (no news on how it works on older models) and lets you check-in to places quickly and easily.

Foursquare location information on SocialScope Foursquare location list on SocialScope

Foursquare friend updates on SocialScope

(Note the built-in typo in the standard “off the grid” messages)

While SocialScope has supported creating groups of users in the app itself for a while, the latest update also supports Twitter lists, allowing you to display your pre-created lists, add to existing lists or create new lists from scratch.

Adding to a Twitter List in SocialScope

SocialScope has already won its place as my BlackBerry Twitter app of choice due to its user-friendly interface and easy integration of other social networks, but this easily cements its spot.

Social Gaming Hitting A New Level

Xbox LiveLast week, Microsoft rolled out a new update to its Xbox 360 dashboard. Among other changes, the update added Twitter and Facebook functionality to “Gold” users of its service. CNET tells us that “millions” are already using these new services.

The new add-ons allow users to do the usual things that you would expect to do with Twitter and Facebook – browse profiles, tweet, etc, but they also do one very important and very powerful thing, too:

They allow you to see which of your friends on these services are using Xbox Live.

Why is this a big deal? Because, if you’re anything like me, you’re tired of logging on to spend a few minutes playing your favourite game online and being confronted with a bunch of kids yelling vile insults at you. Thanks to those types, I rarely (read: never) play online with people I don’t know.

The problem with that philosophy, though, is that it can be hard to find which of your friends uses the Xbox Live service, leaving the online experience feeling somewhat empty. With these new features, you can scan your Twitter follower and Facebook friends lists to find your fellow gamers, and quickly and easily connect to them.

It’s another step in the merging of social media and social networking into the things we already do online.

  • Mass media websites have incorporated social media tools such as RSS and commenting for a while;
  • Movie producers have used social media features during movie and DVD launches (Fight Club is a great example);
  • Now, social media is further encroaching on one of the largest entertainment industries around – computer gaming.

My bet: in a couple of years, this kind of feature will be so ingrained that people won’t think of it as a “social media” feature – it’ll just be a given when they turn on their console.

What do you think?

Conflicted About Ad.ly

Ad.lyBrowsing through my Google Reader feed this evening, a story in the New York Times caught my eye. The story was about ad.ly – a relatively new service that pays Twitter users to insert advertisements into their Twitter stream.

In the piece, Brad Stone gives a reasonable outline of the service, which counts “celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Dr. Drew and the musician Ernie Halter” among its customers. It also includes a quote from Robert Scoble:

““It interferes with your relationship with your friends and your audience,” said Robert Scoble, a technology blogger with more than 100,000 followers on Twitter, who says he “unfollows” people on Twitter who send him ads.”

Checking the site, ad.ly also counts Darren Rowse, Jason Calacanis, Jeremiah OwyangBrian Solis and Gnomedex founder Chris Pirillo among its users.

I’ve made my feelings about advertising services on Twitter known in the past. Notably, I got a little upset when some advertisers started posting misleading ads through a service called Magpie back in April this year.

However, I feel a little conflicted about this story.

Pros

Money on the side

Ad.ly lets Twitter users generate additional income with little effort.

Control the ads

Users have full control over the messages that are posted – they approve every message posted through their account.

Disclosure

Every message, according to the site, is disclosed as an ad:

“The end of every Ad.ly tweet (except tweets for charity) is marked with “(Ad)” notifying your audience that this is an advertisement. In order to ensure authenticity, every Ad.ly Tweet has to be explicitly approved by the Twitter publisher and is disclosed as an ad.”

Cons

Hijacking your connections

People don’t follow you to hear about the services that pay you to broadcast their messages. They follow to hear about the things YOU like. Still, I don’t watch TV to check the ads out there, but I do watch them. That said, I don’t like it.

While I don’t recoil to the same extent as others (Shannon Boudjema outlines her concerns succinctly here), I still feel uneasy about the concept.

Social media becoming unsocial

Ad.ly inserts ads into your Twitter stream. It’s traditional media piggy-backing on social media. There’s a disconnect between the “push” mechanism in use and the two-way nature of the medium.

Gut

Logic aside, something just doesn’t feel right for me. I have nothing to back this up – perhaps it’s because I don’t consider monetizing my Twitter followers often, but it sits wrong with me.

Bottom line

In case you can’t tell, I’m finding this one tough. Most of the solid logic points to the idea being reasonable, especially given that the Tweets are both approved by users and disclosed as ads. Still, I can’t bring myself to consider using it.

The logic is there, but… there’s a but. but it doesn’t feel right for me. I can’t put my finger on this one.

What do you think?

Your Social Media Presence Needs Substance, Not Just Style

“Twitter” isn’t a communications strategy. It isn’t even a social media strategy. As a company, having a Twitter account doesn’t even set you apart from the pack any more.

As social media’s golden-child-of-the-moment heads into the trough of disillusionment, we’re going to see more and more people vocalizing the same thing; Jennifer Leggio said it succinctly today: “I don’t care if your company is on Twitter.”

I’ve argued this for a while, but I’ll argue it again – Twitter (or Facebook, or FriendFeed, or blogging) isn’t a silver bullet for your company.

Plan properly

ToolkitInstead of wondering how best to use Twitter, try wondering:

  • “What are we trying to do?”
  • “Who are we trying to reach?”
  • “How do we best reach those people to achieve those things?”

Sometimes, the answer to those questions won’t include Twitter. Remember – Twitter is just one tool in your social media toolkit, and social media is just one set of tools in your communications toolkit. There are lots of other options.

Have a purpose

Just having a Twitter presence isn’t enough to make you interesting, either. Thousands of companies do nowadays. It doesn’t set you apart. You need substance to your presence, rather than just style.

Look at the companies we often look to as models of how to approach Twitter successfully – each of them uses the tool to accentuate their USP or to add something new to their communications (over-simplifying here to make a point):

  • Zappos uses it to shine a spotlight on their great customer service
  • Molson and Ford solve the problem of being large, potentially faceless brands by putting people and personalities out there
  • Dell uses Twitter to address a perception of poor customer service, while also putting a face on the company (along with sales generation)

These brands aren’t just there because they should be (in fact, they were on Twitter before it was the golden child) – each of them uses it for a purpose.

Stop and think

So, before starting a Twitter initiative, ask yourself:

Are we doing this for the right reason? Is it the right tool for the job?

Your thoughts?

Face-Off: Twitter Apps For BlackBerry

If you’re anything like me, you probably find it easy to burn a lot of time on Twitter. It’s addictive – you get into a conversation and before you know it, it’s 10 or 15 minutes later.

One of the ways I get around Twitter overload is by doing a lot of my tweeting from my BlackBerry – heading to and from meetings; when I’m grabbing lunch; on the way to clients and so on.

Trouble is, there are plenty of these applications around. This is a quick whip-through the best three Twitter applications I’ve used:

TwitterBerry

TwitterBerry screenshotTwitterBerry was the first Twitter application I tried for the BlackBerry. It had been a little while since I tried it before writing this post, and I was pleasantly surprised by some of the changes I observed.

Pros

  • Single purpose app – does what it says on the tin
  • Easy to set up and configure
  • New user interface lets you reply to Tweets without leaving the timeline view
  • TwitPic integration

Cons

  • According to reports from other people, TwitterBerry can suck the life out of your BlackBerry’s battery
  • Slow to refresh updates
  • TwitPic is only available when viewing pictures – can only push to TwitterBerry, rather than pull photos in

ÜberTwitter

UberTwitter screenshotFrom the moment I installed ÜberTwitter, I enjoyed its streamlined interface and more advanced options. Note: ÜberTwitter made a controversial (in some peoples’ eyes) move to introduce ads into its application a little while back, and has now released a paid ad-free version on top of the free product.

Pros

  • Scrolling auto-refresh is a nice touch
  • Support for multiple Twitter accounts (just one at a time)
  • Allows you to take/post photos and to post videos from within the app
  • Comprehensive menu options, although it can be a bit overwhelming for beginners
  • Search function is very handy
  • Ad-free version available for those wanting to avoid pesky ads
  • Plenty of configuration options (though see cons for the flip side…)

Cons

  • Auto-refresh can get irritating when first loading the application
  • Keeps flipping back to the default Twitter account; irritating if you’re trying to stick with one for a bit
  • ÜberTwitter can be a big memory suck on the BlackBerry – I found my device crashed or hang frequently, requiring a hard reset. Only avoided by setting the app to not run in the background (nullifying the option to have notifications of new Tweets)
  • GPS enabled on posts by default; unaware users may not like this
  • Configuration options seem to go on for ever – overwhelming for new users

SocialScope

SocialScope screenshotSocialScope is the new kid on the block. Still in closed beta testing (and tightly controlled – they wouldn’t give me any invites to hand out along with this post), access is limited right now but will hopefully open up soon. SocialScope currently integrates with Twitter and Facebook, but bills itself as “a mobile inbox for your social networks” so I wouldn’t be surprised to see more tools added.

Pros

  • Tabbed interface keeps you organized and allows access to screens without needing to use the menu
  • Facebook and Twitter integrated in one interface
  • Support for multiple Twitter accounts
  • Less of a memory hog than ÜberTwitter – my BlackBerry has rarely crashed since switching
  • Lets you easily associate a Twitter account with a BlackBerry contact – adds the username to that person’s address book entry
  • Replying to messages takes you to a threaded view which lets you easily track conversations
  • Search option is useful
  • Notification of new Tweets means it’s easy to know if you should check in to view conversations involving you
  • Intuitive, context-sensitive menu makes navigation through the app a breeze

Cons

  • Facebook integration can be irritating – re-authentication bug means you need to log out then back in rather than just re-entering password
  • Only supports a single Twitter account
  • Has a habit of hanging while uploading photos, requiring a full (i.e. remove the battery) reset of the device to access the app again
  • Access is limited right now during the closed beta testing, but that won’t be the case forever

Conclusion

Each of the applications has their pluses:

  • TwitterBerry’s simplicity makes it a reasonable option for beginners;
  • ÜberTwitter’s multiple accounts and comprehensive options make it a good choice for power users;
  • SocialScope integrates Twitter and Facebook in an easy-to-use application.

For me, though, SocialScope wins the battle hands down. The intuitive interface, the user-friendly layout, the integration of Facebook and the easy access to photos makes it an easy winner.

ÜberTwitter certainly puts up a good fight, as evidenced by the response to my quick Twitter query (below). However, for me the additional functionality provided by SocialScope is overwhelming.

There are lots of other mobile interfaces for Twitter out there – Slandr and Dabr (hat tip: Mathew Ingram) – both web-based interfaces – are two examples. Do you use a different way of accessing Twitter on the go?

What do you think?

Twitter friends' favourite BlackBerry Apps for Twitter

Response to question: "What's your favourite Twitter application for the BlackBerry?"

Five Communications Implications As Twitter Enters The Trough Of Disillusionment

gartner_hype_cycle09Earlier this week, Gartner released its latest Hype Cycle report showing the state of various technology trends.

Some of the trends on the rise at various stages of the cycle include augmented reality, Internet TV, Web 2.0 and corporate blogging.

One noticeable point, however: microblogging is about to cross into the trough of disillusionment. Of course, the dominant player in this field is Twitter.

Twitter is social media’s golden child right now. Recently, Twitter has sat at what Gartner calls the “peak of inflated expectations”:

“…a frenzy of publicity typically generates over-enthusiasm and unrealistic expectations”

It’s hard to argue that Twitter hasn’t been over-hyped recently. We’re about to see that change. The next phase is characterised as:

“Technologies enter the “trough of disillusionment” because they fail to meet expectations and quickly become unfashionable. Consequently, the press usually abandons the topic and the technology.”

What does thais mean from a communicator’s perspective? Here are five potential effects of Twitter’s transition into the trough of disillusionment:

  • Less breathless media coverage: corporate Twitter use won’t be enough to generate media coverage
  • Less snake oil: the field will thin as the opportunistic snake-oil salesmen move on to the next shiny tool
  • Maturing use by companies: smart communicators already know that Twitter isn’t a social media strategy unto itself. Twitter will become less of a focus of campaigns and more of an integrated tactic. In more cases we’ll see companies decide that this isn’t the right tactic for them
  • Maturing expectations of users: we’ve seen the growth of somewhat unrealistic expectations in terms of response levels and times by organizations. This should lessen, making issues management more… manageable
  • Increased focus on measurement: as Twitter moves into the trough, it will become all the more important to measure effectively and for communicators to tie Twitter use to business results and metrics

Make sense to you? What do you think?

Coordinate Multiple Twitter Accounts With CoTweet

CoTweet LogoIf you work on a multi-person social media team, you’ve likely encountered issues coordinating responses to online conversations. You’ll spot a mention of your company and reply to it, only to find that another one of your colleagues has already replied, or that there was a reason they hadn’t done so.

Tools like Radian6 accommodate built-in workflow management to help teams to coordinate interactions across multiple platforms. However, they have their shortfalls.

Now we have a new kid on the block. CoTweet, which bills itself as “a platform that helps companies reach and engage customers using Twitter,” is a solution for companies managing teams of employees across multiple Twitter accounts.

I participated in CoTweet’s closed beta testing period, but it recently emerged into open beta meaning you can sign-up and try it yourself.

Some of CoTweet’s key features:

  • Multiple accounts – nothing that tools like TweetDeck and Seesmic Desktop don’t already offer, but a must-have nowadays for large companies and agency types/power-users like me who need to juggle several profiles.
  • Multiple users – CoTweet lets you invite multiple users to Tweet from an account. You can coordinate who’s “on duty” at any time, and assign tweets to other users (which triggers a notification email).
  • Conversation threads – one short-coming of some other systems is that they don’t allow for threading of conversations over time. CoTweet rectifies that, allowing you to see conversations between your team and any person over time, see which tweets have been replied-to and ensure you don’t contradict an earlier response from a team-mate.
  • Integration with bit.ly – TweetDeck and the like let you use bit.ly to shorten URLs and an even link them to your bit.ly account, but CoTweet integrates the analytics from bit.ly into its interface.
  • Web-based – while I have no problem with downloadable clients, there are plenty of people around who don’t have that luxury thanks to restrictive IT policies. CoTweet is browser-based, so there’s nothing to install.
  • Cotags - CoTweet defines Cotags as “short signatures that allow you to identify yourself as part of a message while sharing an account with multiple people.” It provides transparency as to who is tweeting when multiple people could be posting. We’ve manually entered “[initials]” for our clients in the past; CoTweets lets you automate that so you never forget.
  • Persistent search – TweetDeck’s key feature early-on was its integration of persistent searches into your interface. While CoTweet doesn’t quite do that (you need to go to a search screen), it does provide persistent searches that are fully integrated into the interface.

Overall, CoTweet is a powerful new tool for companies managing multiple Twitter accounts and users.

What are your early impressions of the service? What stands out for you, and what would you change?